glutes

Top three exercises to target the glutes

It's almost impossible for me to write a post about glutes that does not, in some way, reference Sir Mix A Lot:

"Oh my God Becky, look at her butt. It is so big..."

Every time this song comes on the gym, all of the over 35ers stop whatever they're doing to get their groove on. 

Everyone else just watches.

Working on the glute muscles is more than just impressing Becky and her friend though. The glutes are responsible for stabilizing the pelvis and can help promote back health. Here are a few exercises that you can incorporate into your workouts on a weekly basis to help build the kind of butt you can bounce a quarter off of. 

If you really want to know everything there is to know about glutes, you want to check out this guy - Bret Contreras, also known as the Glute Guy.

In the meantime, here are a few of my favorites.

Cable pull throughs

Everyone loves doing these in public. And I mean everyone. This is one of the best from the awkward exercise selection, but in all honesty is one of the best for you. 

Key coaching cue: Use your hips, not your hands. Keep your spine straight throughout the movement and squeeze those cheeks at the top like you're cracking a walnut.

Monster walks

This is an easy exercise to rush through, so be sure to take your time with them. Start with a lighter band around your knees.

Key coaching cue: The focus here is not stepping forward but loading your weight into the planted leg and lifting the working leg, which makes the movement look more like a Frankenstein walk (hence the name) than a traditional walk.

1-legged hip thrusts

Chances are if you try this one out, you're going to hate it. If you hate it, do more of it. No, not because I'm a sadist, but because it's really good for you. 

Key coaching cue: Maintain a straight spine throughout the exercise, not letting your butt sag throughout the movement. 

Tips to help you prepare for the 5K someone talked you into

5kprepKLF.jpg

So you signed up for your first 5K. Or your first 5K since Friends was part of Thursday night t.v. You weren't going to do it, but someone applied peer pressure the way Dolly Parton applies makeup and you crumbled like you were in middle school and everyone said it was cool to peg your acid washed jeans.*

The race is in a month and you’re putting off all of the things you should be doing. Like, I don’t know, running. Or working out at all. 

I’m not here to tell you that you won’t have to run. I mean you did sign up for a 5K. But I’m also here to make a few suggestions about some other exercises you can be doing to help prepare for the run. 

1. Soft tissue work and warm up

Do your foam rolling. Do it! Eat your vegetables and do your foam rolling. If you don't have a foam roller, use your Tiger Stick. (Or use a rolling pin. Just maybe don't tell your spouse). I've posted before on the benefits of foam rolling, and I realize that it can be tough to plop down on a roller before a race (hence the tiger stick). But using the roller to get the main muscles in your leg before a run can help get the blood flowing. 

And don't forget about your upper body. Many runners tend to hunch over and tense up the shoulders during the run, so using a lacrosse ball or baseball to get into the shoulder areas can be very helpful before and after the run.

After you do your soft tissue work, doing a dynamic warm up. In other words, do more than a few arm circles and cursory quad stretches. Deep squats, 90/90 hip shifts, rocking ankle mobs, hip flexor stretch, t-spine rotations are a few good ones to start. 

 

This video explains how to appropriately use a foam roller and baseball or lacrosse ball to warm up your muscles prior to working out. It’s also a sneak-peak into the type of videos included in my new product “Stronger You” to be released the first week of July.

 

2. Do some form drills and strengthen the glutes

We've all seen the video of Phoebe from Friends running. And I don't know what it says about me that I managed to make two references to "Friends" in the same post...

What are your glutes anyway? Well, there are three gluteal muscles that form our butt.

  • The gluteus minimus, (the smallest), is situated immediately beneath the gluteus medius.
  • The gluteus medius is a broad, thick, radiating muscle, situated on the outer surface of the pelvis.
  • The gluteus maximus, the largest and most visual of the three. It makes up a large portion of the shape and appearance of the hips. It’s also the largest muscle in your body.

Weak glute muscles can lead to a host of injuries, including the dreaded runner's knee. Glute strength helps to provide stability in the lower leg. And trust me, that's a good thing.

Spend some time focusing on technique. Below are two exercises that can be very helpful in working the glutes and forcing you to concentrate on leg drive especially. No you're not planning to sprint in this 5K, until the very end when you want to catch that one dude that you KNOW you can beat. 

 

When done correctly, this exercise should burn your butt and get your heart rate up.

 
 
 
 
 

A strong butt can also help support proper trunk posture during the run, which leads me to point number three.

3. Don't neglect your core

Pretty much every post I write on everything comes back to having a strong core. A strong core can pretty much stop a zombie apocalypse, make a short person taller, and help you leap buildings in a single bound.  It can help with balance, posture, speed, endurance...a strong core is pretty much the unspoken key to happiness. 

Do your core work. And no, that's not a butt-ton of sit ups. It's some stuff like this: 

 
Instead of doing a front plank or side plank for time, work on using doing three-five full deep breaths during the exercise.
 
 
 
 

Be careful about letting your back arch. Pretend someone’s going to punch you in the gut - that’s bracing your core. Totally welcome for that.

 

4. Run

Last but not least, you should actually get some runs in. Build up slowly - if you're not currently running, start slowly. Follow a format of walking/jogging/walking/jogging. Choose a landmark in the distance and run to that landmark. Walk for a minute and repeat. Keep in mind that you will be ready to run from a cardiovascular standpoint sooner than your joints will be ready. So resist the urge to go from 0 miles a week to 30 miles per week. 

Listen to your body. Don't be like me and run on a stress fracture for a month. If something starts causing you pain stop running; immediately. 

Your 5K will be less fun if you can't run it.

*I'm talking about me here. This is how I signed up for a 10k and a Tough Mudder Half within a few weeks of each other. Also, I did peg my jeans. 
 

Training for life: using the deadlift for fat loss

Ok, I'm totally guilty of using this title for click bait, but if you clicked on it then, ohla! It worked. :)

Seriously though, whether your goal is performance based or fat loss motivated, the deadlift is one of the best all around compound movements you can add in to your training. 

If you've read my about me page or seen any of my social media posts, you'll know that I'm a hyoouuuuuuge fan of the deadlift. And I'll be totally honest, I love it because it came naturally to me. Which is why I openly boycott the bench press in my training, where I have yet to hit triple digits. 

This lift itself can feel very intimidating, especially when you see someone like this guy lifting 500 plus pounds. If you're not a bald-headed muscular dude, it can be hard to see yourself doing the same kind of lift.

 
 

So where do you start?

Well, first thing's first, shave your head. 

Kidding. I mean unless you want to. Then that's cool.

Second of all, start with a PVC pipe or broom handle of some sort. And then do this:

 
 

What are we doing here besides finding an additional use for a broom handle and/or light saber? We're introducing the hip hinge pattern, which basically means sitting back with minimal bending of the knee and then snapping forward, which is engaging the entire posterior chain. (Posterior chain is a fancy term for using all of the big muscles groups on the back of the body; hamstrings, glutes and lower back). 

The key to the deadlift is maintaining a neutral spine throughout the movement, but you have to have a context of what that looks like. I'll have a client do the above exercise for five or six reps before moving on to the actual deadlift itself. The key coaching cue for the exercise above is to maintain contact with the stick at the butt, upper back, and head. Initiate the movement by sitting back with your butt. Imagine someone has a rope tied to your waist and is pulling back. 

But what if I have back pain?

Chances are you have back pain because your glutes are weak and your hamstrings are tight. As Dean Somerset says "deadlifts train the spine to remain stable while exposed to stupidly high shear forces, thus making you Superman." I'd say Captain America, but tomato tomato.

As a side note, I'm always a little mystified when people say they don't want to deadlift or squat because they are afraid of injury, or their knees hurt or whatever. Every time you bend down to pick up a child, or air conditioner or bag of groceries, you are, in fact, dead lifting weight off of the ground. And every time you sit down on a chair, your bed, the toilet or your niece's "Frozen" big wheel cycle, you're squatting. Both the deadlift and the squat are patterns from your activities of daily living. Anywho, mini-rant over. 

Kettle bell deadlift

Almost everyone begins with the kettle bell deadlift, and I like this variation for a couple of reasons.

First of all, the kettle bells are more available than a trap bar. Second of all, the weight selection starts fairly light. This is a movement you don't want to load up until you have the technique down. Third of all, most gyms have a selection of kettle bells.

Key coaching cues:

1. Elevate the surface where you rest the kettle bell. In the video below I'm using a couple of plates. Use a step or whatever flat surface you have available to raise the surface a few inches, otherwise you'll find yourself squatting the movement, which is what we DON'T want.

2. Think of closing a door behind you with your butt - I heard this on a podcast somewhere and it works. Instead of just bending down to pick up the kettle bell, slide your butt back to close that door and grab the kettle bell.

3. Try to bend the handle of the kettle bell - Pretend your Superman and you're trying to actually bend the handle of kettle bell. Think of splitting a piece of wood in half with your bare hands. This engages the lats (that area under your arm pits and back).

4. Push your feet into the floor - Do it!

5. Squeeze your glutes at the top. Like trying to crack a walnut. You're welcome for that image. :-)

 
 

I haven't spent a ton of time encouraging comments below, but if you have any questions about exercises like these, or general nutrition questions, please post them below. 

Give this deadlift variation a try and let me know what you think.